Welcome to the ultimate gaming breakdown with Tom Hammond and Neil Edwards! Tune in every week as we deconstruct today's top games and reveal the secrets behind their success.
[00:00:43] Tom Hammond: Hi everyone. Uh, welcome. Today's episode of the Mastering Retention Podcast today. Very special episode. We have a user experience expert with us, and we're gonna dive into the, uh, I guess, how would you say the masterclass that, uh, Marvel Snap teaches us on, uh, user experience design? So it'd be lots of fun.
[00:01:05] Uh, before we dive into everything though, um, we've got Neil Edwards here and, and Neil, tell us a little bit about like your story. What are you, what are you up to today? What are you doing?
[00:01:15] Neil Edwards: Yeah. Um, so I'm one of the co-founders, um, and the head of ux, uh, UX is fine. Um, so we are a UX and ui, uh, sort of full service, uh, design studio in the video game space.
[00:01:28] Um, myself, Jason Slar, uh, David Score. Um, so basically founded and run by a bunch of video game vets. Um, so we've done a, we do a ton of, uh, UX design, uh, UI design, art production style [00:01:43] definition, branded identity stuff. Really helping people translate their vision, understand that vision and, and really understand, um, what motivates their players emotionally and kind of help them deliver that.
[00:01:53] Whether it's fixing their live ops games, whether it's taking their games to new platforms, uh, helping them build new, great games, um, from the ground up. Um, so that's what we do. I kind of run the UX department, develop our processes and our team there. Um, and then before that I spent about half my career in the industry as a game designer.
[00:02:10] Um, some game designer originally, um, by training and trade. So that's where a lot of our, um, kind of holistic approach to UX comes from. We think about it from a, from a game design layer, from an audio. Mm-hmm. From a vfx like the whole shebang, right? Um, that creates that emotional experience and not just the UI layer, right?
[00:02:27] So that's a lot of my background and kind of what I get up to these days.
[00:02:30] Tom Hammond: That's really cool. All right, so I'm gonna ask a really basic dumb question, but you know, some people hear ui ux, like it all kind of sounds like, what are we [00:02:43] even talking about here? Like what is user experience?
[00:02:46] Neil Edwards: So it's really funny because this is like a hot, juicy topic that gets debated industry and like has all kinds of misnomers and, and different levels of understanding.
[00:02:54] And that's a lot of what we do at work is like helping educate people, um, and evangelize really what UX kind of is and how you really think about it from a game development perspective. So the way we kind of describe it, and the way I think about it is like, A lot of people say when they say ux, most people mean ui.
[00:03:14] They're talking about your inventory screen, they're talking about your menus, they're talking about where your buttons are. And those are very important parts and critical parts of the user experience. Um, but I always joke with people that like abbreviating UX to UX is like one of the worst things we ever did cuz it turns it into this buzz phrase.
[00:03:31] But ultimately it's the user's experience. So while we don't necessarily design features and design systems, we're not necessarily game designers per se. We do [00:03:43] collaborate, give a lot of feedback with game designers to help ensure. First, what is the intended user experience? So what motivations are we trying to satisfy?
[00:03:52] What emotional experiences are we trying to create? Right. You know, challenge, self-expression, uh, you know, social relatedness, um, fantasy immersion, like all these things. And we have a framework that we've developed, um, that we use for that. So for us, UX is kind of the umbrella of delivering. Why is your player showing up?
[00:04:14] Right? What is, what is compelling them through this complex, interconnected, you know, interweaving of systems to keep coming back to your product every day? That is ultimately unlike a lot of other UX work, it's not a utility app, right? I don't need to check my bank balance. I'm coming into a piece of entertainment software that I don't really have a utility reason to be in, is to satisfy my emotional needs.
[00:04:37] Mm-hmm. Um, so ux, we, we do a lot of UI design, but we also look at the bigger kind of picture of, you know, not [00:04:43] just making your inventory screen intuitive, uh, easy to get around, but helping understand like, Making sure people want to come to that screen. Why do they want to craft a weapon? Mm-hmm. What are they really working towards, you know?
[00:04:54] So that's kind of the example I use is like, we're not just about removing friction, we're about helping ensure that like, people are wanting to engage with that experience for the reasons you want them to. And if not, helping dissect that. Why are they not wanting to craft stuff? Why do they not care about, you know, coming in and changing their sword on a daily basis?
[00:05:12] Right. What, what's missing in the linkages of what we're trying to create?
[00:05:17] Tom Hammond: That's great. Yeah. I imagine more than a few people were like, oh, I, I realize, I always kind of thought about UI is just like the, the user experience, but not realizing that has a larger purpose. I think it's sometimes easy to forget them.
[00:05:32] Yep. All right. So Neil Marvel, snap. Tell me about it. Like what do you think about Marvel Snap, you know, from, from a user [00:05:43] experience perspective, like yeah, what are some things that they really got right?
[00:05:48] Neil Edwards: So I think the things that they really got right, I mean, it kind of goes without saying, but we're here.
[00:05:53] I mean, the, the core gameplay is like, it's phenomenal, not just from an engaging, emotional, compelling experience as a player, but we'll probably get into it later in the episode of like, there's some really smart choices that they made with the design of the gameplay that Als that don't just make this a great game, they help to make it a amazing product.
[00:06:14] Um mm-hmm. That, you know, a lot of what I think about is, like, you and I talked about this Tom offline of like, a lot of your ability to successfully do live ops really comes down to your core. Like you can bolt a ton of like, reward mechanisms and shit onto your game and calendars and yacht and like, you can, you can pump that thing for all it's worth, but a lot of your kind of limits of your success are really defined by your core.
[00:06:40] And so I think some of the key things they did were things [00:06:43] like, um, It's not just session length. Everyone. Everyone's like, oh man, it's like, it, it's so short, it's so great, but it's more than session length. It's the fact that there's so few inputs and not in a bad way, in a positive way. So we've seen three minute session games for a long time, but specifically I think what's brilliant is it's a five turn or six turn game.
[00:07:06] Um, and you're making like anywhere from five to let's say 12, like 15 max decisions and inputs in a game. And so I kind of, kind of talk to people. It's like, it's like the TikTok of games. It's like fucking brilliant. Um, in terms of it's second screenable. And I think one that's really brilliant in terms of the accessibility in people's lives, like.
[00:07:30] I was in the kitchen at work the other day and like someone starts talking to me cuz they don't realize I'm playing a game cuz I'm sitting here like having a conversation and playing Marvel Snap at the same time. So the way it's able to fit into your life, because it's such a quick game, but such a [00:07:43] discreet game, um, is really brilliant.
[00:07:46] I think what they did with the, the deck size choice, uh, is also really brilliant and, um, has some knock on effects, not just for the player, um, but has some knock on effects for the design itself. Right. So taking, you know, Hearthstone, you know, had like 30, I think it was 30 card decks, right? So we come all the way down to 12, something much closer to, uh, a clash royale or things like that.
[00:08:08] Mm-hmm. And obviously I imagine one, I imagine, um, I'm not at second dinner, but I imagine one of the driving forces of that decision is like, Hey, let's make making a deck approachable, easy, not insanely complex, you know, this magic like experience. Um, even simpler than heart stone. But also one of the effects of that that I think is kind of.
[00:08:29] A beautiful product thing is, and we'll probably talk about this more, is the small deck size. There's still a ton of possibility space there. Mm-hmm. But what it does is, It makes making [00:08:43] new decks easier, not just because the number of cards, but because it's easier. And by the nature of the mechanics, it's easier to see the impacts of your choices play out as a player, right.
[00:08:54] With such a small deck and so, and so few turns and, and so few, few moving parts though a big amount of depth, it's way quicker and easier to get feedback when you make a deck because it's not like, oh, I have a 40 card deck, I only saw half the deck in the game, so I'm having to play game over game over game to like see if this thing is working and kind of see it play out.
[00:09:15] Yeah. So I don't know if that was totally intentional or like a beautiful knock on. Um, but I think those are some knock on effects of some of those choices. Um, I'll pause here for Eric cause I could go on about a lot of the, the brilliant little design choices that, that they made. Oh, the one last thing I won't pause for air for that we'll also get into is the snap mechanic itself.
[00:09:36] One is like wildly engaging. And it, it, it, it's easy to [00:09:43] be like, oh man, the game's so fun. It's so compelling. Snap creates this, these cool emotional moments. But I think that matters so much from a product perspective because a lot of things that I talk about with clients is like, people play, they stay and they pay when they're emotional motivations are being satisfied.
[00:10:02] And so part of what I think is brilliant about great product and great game design is designing for those emotional hooks. And there is like, there is not a better hook. I can recently think of those emotionally potent moments where I just had one right before this. It was almost late to this call because I'm sitting here playing Marvel Snap, someone snaps on you and it is just one anecdote, someone snaps on you.
[00:10:27] Um, And then they don't realize kind of your strategy and you snap back on them and you just mop the floor with them and it's just this really rich emotional moment. Or you have the downsides, right? A lot of players, a lot of, a lot of devs are afraid to design for frustration or they're afraid, especially in [00:10:43] mobile casual, free to play.
[00:10:44] They're afraid to let their players be mad or get frustrated or lose or have kind of down moments. But the, the low, I was like, the lows define the highs. And those hooks, man, they stick in you and they keep you coming back. And the last thing I'll say before I promise and I actually do take a breath, is they create really, Uh, strong shareable moments, right?
[00:11:04] So I'll text my friends and I'm like, I text someone the other day and I was like, F en chan, because I just, like, someone just totally thwarted me with this one card. And it just creates these really uniques, shareable moments that build the virality of the game, not just as a gaming experience, but as a product.
[00:11:20] And it's, again, it kind of, it's what keeps it and puts it in the zeitgeist. It's what creates material on Twitter and shit like that. And again, the design choices you make in your core can make your job in live ops easier or harder. Right. You
[00:11:35] Tom Hammond: know, another interesting thing, uh, with Marvel Snap is they're basically able to stack [00:11:43] the TUI because of how they designed their core gameplay.
[00:11:45] Now, the core gameplay might have entirely been an accident, but the fact that both players are playing cards simultaneously, they can basically, in that early stage of the game, they can figure out. What percent do I want this player to win and lose? And they can make choices as the AI to ensure that there's the right outcome for the players to like really optimize that first time user experience again.
[00:12:12] You know, getting back to how often do I want them to win? Do I want them to feel that loss because I want them to like, you know, keep going or whatnot. Um, so very, very cool. Um, it's funny,
[00:12:23] Neil Edwards: it's, I hadn't thought about that, but yeah, that's actually really clever.
[00:12:26] Tom Hammond: Yeah. I don't know how many other games could actually get away with doing that, but you know, if you can, awesome.
[00:12:33] Um, absolutely. Okay, so let's. Let's get a little bit into just like the topic of retention for Marvel Snap. I mean, retention is [00:12:43] ultimately, like if you don't have it, players aren't coming back to your game. Doesn't matter how much you spend on user acquisitions, it's not gonna turn out too well for you.
[00:12:49] So, um, yeah, let's talk about like retention mechanisms. Like why do players wanna come back? Like, uh, talk to me a little bit about like their progression systems.
[00:12:59] Neil Edwards: Yeah. So I think, um, and I think this is where the, the game actually has room to grow. And if you look at their roadmap, you, you see some exciting stuff come, uh, coming up, um, that's kind of being teased.
[00:13:11] So, I mean, I think, I think their early retention, one of the things they do really well is, you know, they, they rocket you through, you know, like the first like few weeks of just getting more cards and more cards and more cards. Um, and it's this really kind of awesome deluge of like expanding the possibility space and giving you new stuff.
[00:13:32] Um, And it does it really well. I think one of the areas where, at least anecdotally for me and some of my other game developer friends I've talked to, [00:13:43] I think one of the areas where the game has like a bit of a risk, um, I is, is kind of getting stuck in the early game, um, and how long that early game can kind of last sometimes.
[00:13:55] So I think, I think one of the key, I I, I think one of the key, and this is not like some huge insight, I think most CCGs and things like that, competitive games. Um, one of the keys to this game's like long-term retention is getting players to that point of friction or providing them things or that move them around the box, right?
[00:14:17] Um, I actually think that. If you're not getting players, trying new decks, seeing new strategies, hitting some of those walls, um, they can churn out. Um, and I've actually talked to a, a, a decent handful of people where they're like, oh my gosh, this is so fun. And they burn super bright on it and from ranks about one to 30.
[00:14:38] Um, you know, they're winning a bunch. Uh, and it's fun, but then it kind of loses its [00:14:43] luster because there's nothing that in, in those early ranks, you're kind of playing against a bunch of other new players. And if you kind of have a decent grasp of the game, there's nothing that's kind of, you're not losing enough, there's nothing, you're not seeing new strategies, there's nothing forcing you to do different things.
[00:14:57] So albeit very fun and you're winning, you start to feel like you're playing the same game. And I actually turned out of the game. I actually was like, man, this is so great, da da da. And I went like super hard on it. And then I felt like I was playing the same game over and over again. So I turned out and then I came back.
[00:15:11] Um, and some of this is just an interesting timing thing when you think about users and their lives and, and how things can kind of coincide. I came back right after like another season reset, and I had seen that I, I, I had reset and I'd gone down a bunch of ranks, which they do for smart reasons. I totally get it.
[00:15:27] You hit skill equilibrium and then people go up and down and up and down and they sit in the same place and they turn out, right? So I get why they do that, but then I was like, ah, shit. I was like, damn, I gotta play through, I gotta play through all the scrubs again. This is gonna take forever. Um, and I instantly quit and then I came [00:15:43] back and this is why.
[00:15:44] And one of the things like, it doesn't seem like a retention mechanic, but I'm gonna kind of argue that it is a retention mechanic. This is like the multi-class brilliance of the Snap mechanic. Specifically because I, I'm a risk averse player. Even though I was like having a lot of success, I just didn't really use the snap mechanic.
[00:16:00] I just didn't like the idea of like risking my points. Even though I was always winning. I don't know what it is. I just, psychologically I'm not a big risk taker person. Yeah. Um, but I came back and a lot of my friends were talking about the Snap mechanic, how awesome it was and they were using it. Um, and so, I started using it and then I was like, F it.
[00:16:19] I mean, I'm, I'm just trouncing all these people, so I'm just gonna snap every single game. I'm just gonna snap every single game no matter what cards I have. And so I did that and what it allowed and why I think this is a brilliant, what I would argue is retention mechanic is it allowed me to speed through ranks one through 30 and find that resistance point where I needed to build new decks.
[00:16:40] It allowed me to do that in like [00:16:43] two or three days, and it had taken me multiple weeks before. Hmm. So it allowed me to customize my experience. And get back to the challenge level where then honestly I started getting my ass beat. And then I was like, oh. I was like, I need to change some things. And then I saw people using new cards and new strategies and then that is really what's pulled me into the game is actually seeing what I think of as like, this is the true Marvel Snap experience.
[00:17:10] This is when you're like off the bunny hill and you're starting to see the Matrix and you're like, oh man. Like, you know, like Infin, you know, like Infin decks. Like I just kept getting ruined by these and I would just rage. And then I was like, well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And I got that card and then I, you know, I kind of, and then I started, used that as a nugget and started building.
[00:17:28] So it's a long-winded answer, but to me, one of the biggest retention mechanics is getting players to the point where they are seeing different strategies. Mm-hmm. And they're making different decks. And mo like that is, I think at the [00:17:43] heart of a lot of the retention this game's gonna have. Um, obviously missions and stuff are important.
[00:17:49] I think that's one of the games. Areas where, especially for the more engaged players, it can kind of improve a little bit as well. I know there's a bunch of feedback in the community. Um, I've experienced it as well where like people, like they run the missions and they kind of tap out and then they're, you know, they kind of have to wait, you know, a day or two days or three days sometimes for the next one.
[00:18:08] Mm-hmm. Um, and again, it's, it's easy to be like, well, Damnit, just play the game. It's fun, you know, but there's, there's a ton of psycho, there's a ton. You and I talk about this, there's a ton of psychological research that says when you give someone a extrinsic reward, doesn't matter how fun the thing that they're doing, they'll stop doing it when you take the reward away, right?
[00:18:26] Mm-hmm. So I think there's a balance of like kind of content distribution there about like smoothing some of that stuff out, you know, providing kind of a more uninterrupted mission or sort of goal experience, but not through missions, through other mechanics. I'm sure they're kind of working on other layers of goals and, and, and, and progression.
[00:18:41] Yeah. And things like [00:18:43] that. So,
[00:18:43] Tom Hammond: so one thing, one thing I wanted to clarify, so I, I believe you defined it, but I don't know if that it was explicit. So we talked about early game a few times in here, but I think early game in your context means anyone that's, you know, ranked 30 or under basically. So once you hit silver and you start to go above, you're kind of getting into like the, the real game, quote, unquote.
[00:19:03] Neil Edwards: Yeah. And, and, and, yeah. So it's, it's, I'm using like loose definitions of early game, obviously, but I think part of the reason is like, Unlike a lot of mobile games where it's a marching forward progression and you, once you leave the early game, never go back. You kind of do because of the season, the season reset and the focus in Snap, so you can actually kind of get trapped in the early game.
[00:19:29] Um, yeah, if you like kind of play up to 30 and that like takes you a whole season, then you kind of get reset. Um, so yeah, that's kind of, I was loosely using that term. Um, but that's, that's what I mean, like in those kind of first early ranks that seem to be where most of the new players [00:19:43] sit.
[00:19:44] Tom Hammond: So it's interesting you talk about like getting trapped in those early ranks.
[00:19:48] Like if you don't play the game enough, like I understand the concept of, you know, resets and stuff like that, but do you think, you know, Could that be a different, or should that be a different design decision to help, like basically like either eliminate that or drastically lower the amount of, like, amount that you, you lose just to try to get more of those people to that, you know, rank 30 mark or whatnot,
[00:20:15] Neil Edwards: or, I think, I think there's other solutions.
[00:20:17] I, I don't know that I would suggest, I definitely wouldn't suggest killing the reset cuz then you're gonna have the reverse problem where basically people hit diamond, they hit infinite or whatever, and they just sit there and they're, and they're not getting that refreshed, you know, slate. Oh yeah. I,
[00:20:31] Tom Hammond: I definitely agree that like higher players, I was more wondering like, just for that like newer player, like players are like level 15 only play like a few games per week and then they never like quite, I, I think
[00:20:42] Neil Edwards: [00:20:43] there's, I think there is something to be said actually with maybe a more.
[00:20:47] Dynamic reset, like maybe the reset, and again, this is armchair design off the cuff, right? So it's super high quality stuff. Um, but I think there is something to be said for potentially starting the reset like at 20 or at 30. Like if you're, if you're less than 20 or less than 30, you don't actually reset or there's a bottom cap to it.
[00:21:08] That's one solution that I think is potentially viable. Um, a part of it is also though, like I didn't, some of it I think is how can, and there may be more, more elegant ways to do it with getting people into the snap mechanic, cuz I think that has a ton of benefits. And I would actually argue, I would love to see the KPIs, like what are the KPIs on players in this game that use the snap mechanic versus don't.
[00:21:35] Cuz I would argue, I'd be willing to bet they're meaningfully different and I could be, you know, and there's lots of different reasons for that. Mm-hmm. Um, and that's complete conjecture [00:21:43] hypothesis. Um, But that's kind of one of the things is like, I feel like if the game, if it weren't for my friends, like just talking about the snap mechanic over and over and over again, I probably never would've like really jumped into it.
[00:21:58] And again, data point of one, but you know, there's similar player types. So I think one solution is like, how do you kind of shepherd people a little bit more on the nose of like, hey, wanna accelerate through the ranks, like, you know, use the snap mechanic and, and we all know that's how it works, but sometimes people le need a little, the dots a little closer together or a little more nudging to be able to kind of accelerate their progress.
[00:22:18] So I think there's ways like that. Um,
[00:22:22] Tom Hammond: okay, here, here, here's an idea. Okay, so I was actually gonna ask you, so you talked about missions like frequently running out, especially for highly engaged players. So I was gonna start to ask you about the concept of personalized player missions that like better take of like, hey, if this player plays 300 matches a day, maybe their matches and their goals and stuff should better [00:22:43] match like their, you know, 300 games a day.
[00:22:45] And if this person plays three, maybe that should better match there. So we're gonna get on that. But here's my idea. Um, you know, for, let's say players, cuz they obviously have the data of whether if you are doing snaps in your games or not, for players that are early on and not using Snap in their games, you know, should I just introduce a daily mission for those players to snap.
[00:23:07] Five times or 10 times or whatnot. I think it's one to
[00:23:10] Neil Edwards: try. I mean, again, I, none of neither one of us can sit here and say that it will work. Do I think that's a worthwhile, do I No, no, no. But I do, I think that's a worthwhile experiment. Absolutely. I think, I think getting players into the snap mechanic on a regular basis is actually, I think would juice the kpi.
[00:23:27] And again, I, the KPIs of this game may be, may be phenomenal, they are no idea. But I think you could get so much more juice out of it by ensuring that those players are using that mechanic because it has so many benefits. So absolutely. I could see Snap, [00:23:43] um, I could see Snap missions and things like that, uh, as an effective way.
[00:23:48] Um, another thing I, I don't have a concrete idea for, um, but maybe, I mean maybe, and this may be a total shit idea, but maybe even slipping some bots or more bots. I'm sure there are bots, um, but maybe even slipping some bots into the earlier matches that. Are showing a more diverse usage of cards. Cuz one of my early experiences was like I was playing against people that mostly had the same decks, mostly as the same decks of me.
[00:24:17] Yeah. Um, I was just beating them and so it just felt kind of stale. But this game has this huge awesome, but also very accessible possibility space. So it's like, can you seed that more with bots? Um, the missions where it's like, Hey, win with this card. As an early player, that's pretty cumbersome. Like it's, it is a way to try to get people to.
[00:24:39] See more possibilities. But the problem with that is like [00:24:43] you just go throw that card in your deck, you're not really sure how to build around it and build a strategy versus when you see someone play play you with that strategy, you're like, oh, and they've got
[00:24:51] Tom Hammond: all the stuff in their
[00:24:52] Neil Edwards: deck. Can't just, you're like, oh they did, they did Moon girl devil, Dino, FME, I'm gonna go do that.
[00:24:58] Um, cuz that was awesome and I just got destroyed by it. So finding ways, whether it's through brats, whether it's through missions, um, for people to be able to see that content sooner, I think that's just puts them on this conveyor belt to the moon because that's, so then it just becomes like this next level engaging
[00:25:13] Tom Hammond: experience.
[00:25:14] So building and trying decks is like a key part of it or something, you know, in a game like this. Do you think that having a way to, okay, so if I just got trounced by this deck, I didn't actually see probably all the deck cuz they didn't probably go through all of it. Um, like. Is that a good thing or should imo, like would it be beneficial to enable to like see what your opponent's deck was after the match is over and maybe like easily copy it into your own, [00:25:43] you know, deck builder so you can just kind of try it out?
[00:25:45] Things like that.
[00:25:46] Neil Edwards: That's interesting. Um, I think there's upsides and downsides to that. Um, I think the upsides are getting people into new strategies more quickly and easily and, and maybe lowering some friction there of the barrier to entry. And they actually do have a really clever deck sharing thing.
[00:26:03] Not, you can't see, but your friends like the copy paste codes and just paste it right in it and make a deck. Like that's actually really goddamn clever. Yeah. Um, I maybe Clash Royal does it? I don't know. I haven't seen it elsewhere before. At least personally
[00:26:14] Tom Hammond: Clash, clash Royal, you can like see top players and you can like copy their decks in and stuff, but yeah.
[00:26:19] Neil Edwards: Yeah, so I think, I think having like a match history where you could see those decks and copy them, um, I think that's an interesting concept. I think that could work. I think the only. I know developers on stuff like this, sometimes they're worried about, it's this weird balance of not wanting to collapse the meta too much, where [00:26:43] it becomes so quick and so obvious to find the best things that everyone's using, that it collapses some level of that experimentation.
[00:26:52] But you also have to think about your different user segments, right? Like there are some players like me, I am ne, I mean, as, as I'm, I'm probably a really gauge engaged user, but I'm never going to start a deck from scratch and be like, I wonder if I, I mean, I just am not that hardcore. And so I think a feature like you're describing, there could be some fear around it collapsing the meta and the kind of chase of that.
[00:27:15] But for people like me, it totally would work. Um, the brilliant, the kind of brilliant thing I do think about that, that works really well mechanically in the game is I. There are decks, but I think the brilliant thing about this, and maybe it's just cause I'm a scrub and not that good, even a whole deck has a specific set of kind of little combos in it.
[00:27:38] So like when I see someone, I'll be like, I don't actually, [00:27:43] I don't actually look for their whole deck. I'm like, oh, they did sunspot and ink, and I just take those two cards and find a way to insert them in my deck. Or like I said, moon Girl and devil io. And then I kind of, I, I kind of just adopt like modules.
[00:27:58] And that's a really like, fucking cool thing about the design, that that kind of can still work. And sometimes you make something that's crap and you gotta kind of refine it like that, but yeah. Yeah.
[00:28:09] Tom Hammond: Yeah. Okay. Interesting. Okay. Um, well let's continue on. Um, maybe talk to me a little bit about like upgrading cards and goal settings.
[00:28:18] Like how do you think about this from user experience design?
[00:28:21] Neil Edwards: Yeah, so this one is interesting and I think this was probably one of like their, their greater challenges, um, where I think it's really well designed in terms of like, it's with the card variance and the splitting and all the stuff they did, like there's only so many ways you can kind of skin this cat.
[00:28:39] I think they did a really good job. I think there's [00:28:43] some challenges early on where it's not necessarily, uh, something players are used to, to kind of like, Hey, upgrade these cards visually, whether you're interested in them or not. And that kind of drives this meter up. So it takes a little bit of, I think players getting used to that just because it is a different model, um, than we've seen in most card, uh, in card games.
[00:29:07] Um, obviously they don't have the luxury, which totally makes sense, um, of like vertical power progression and things like that. Mm-hmm. Um, and so I think it. I think it works really well and like I said earlier, it provides a ton of this del use of content early on. Um, I think there's an interesting tipping point in the experience where initially you're like, yeah, more cards, more cards, more cards.
[00:29:34] And then it becomes more of a shift about a chase to specific cards. Um, because the possibility space kind of hits this, inflection point's the wrong term, but I'll use it [00:29:43] anyway. Um, it kind of hits this inflection point where you have enough cards and you start to really understand the card end of cards you like and the kind of decks you like to play.
[00:29:53] Um, so then it becomes a more specific hunt. Um, and I think that's when they kind of bring in, like they try to bring in the token shop, um, to let you target things more specifically. Um, the fast upgrades is actually, uh, pretty brilliant, um, to kind of give you that kind of comeback opportunity several times a day.
[00:30:10] Um, Not just for cards you specifically want, um, cuz early on sometimes you're like, Ooh, I'm waiting for, you know, ooh, to get this one thing I want. Yeah. And sometimes it was like, I'm gonna buy every single one of these, don't even care what the card is so I can drive up this thing. Um, and so I think they did some really interesting, like pretty effective things with it.
[00:30:29] Um, I think some of the, you and I talked about this a little bit, I think some of the UI design and some of the mental mapping of the systems like just takes a little bit of learnability and, and kind of [00:30:43] the, the, I get the goals of like the speed of kind of the, the auto popping up, the, the sort of upgrade after the match and then that kind of going into the road track.
[00:30:51] Um, I think for early players it can get, um, a little confusing sometimes of like what's happening and where you are and how everything connects. Um, but you learn it and you figure it out. Um, so yeah. Um, I think it's, it, it's, it's interesting because like I said, Because of the way their content's designed.
[00:31:13] Um, a lot of the kind of traditional systems and rules of like, Hey, just do this. They just don't really apply, um, to a game like this, you know? And so I would be willing to bet, um, and actually went to Ben Bro's, um, G D C talk a couple weeks ago. Um, and I kind of got the impression of like, you know, the core gameplay came together pretty quickly.
[00:31:36] And then really, I think one of the toughest nuts to crack was like, what is that outer loop? And how do we let people progress through cards? [00:31:43] Uh, and given this game, you know, uh, doesn't have all the same trappings as, as everything else, um, to its benefit, uh, it becomes quite a challenge. And I think, um, in talking to some other people that follow the development pretty closely, I think they changed it pretty significantly multiple times along the way, even pretty close to launch.
[00:32:02] Mm-hmm. Um, and I totally get why it's, it's a hard thing to figure out. Um, I think the, um, The splitting thing they did has its challenges, but I think it's pretty, pretty damn clever as well where you hit infinite and then you split. Um, and it kind of gives you that second goal and kind of set a prestige.
[00:32:20] Um, and I will say, this isn't squarely aimed at your question, but I do think content, I do think content design really matters. Um, I think the, the, the sheer beauty of the cards, um, and the difference in the levels and how it, how they were, how they were able to create like a pretty meaningfully tier, [00:32:43] uh, tiering throughout the cards, um, I think I'm sure was a hell of a challenge.
[00:32:47] Um, but I think is really, really to the game's benefit. Um, it was so
[00:32:52] Tom Hammond: cool, like when I was first like upgrading it and it started to be like 3D and stuff.
[00:32:56] Neil Edwards: Yeah. Oh yeah. And I mean some of the, some of the juice that they put in the game with the effects and stuff, like it makes it really feel those cosmetics.
[00:33:05] More worthwhile, right? You get that kind of premium feel, um, which I think really, you know, adds to the, the sort of the value to users, the, the, you know, the compulsion to monetize things like that.
[00:33:18] Tom Hammond: Do you think that there's an opportunity for them? So I, I'm thinking about like League of Legends now, who, you know, has all these, like early on they had skins, but like as they got better, their skins just got like more and more awesome.
[00:33:33] Like now the ability start to change. Now we're featuring it. Uh, like when you're loading up the game, you can see your skin like really all about, like showing off the skin and stuff. [00:33:43] Um, and so, you know, the only thing better than just like dominating a match, playing your favorite champion and just, you know, kind of cleaning up is doing it while wearing a really, really sick skin.
[00:33:55] Um, yeah, you know, I would assume that something similar might apply to Marvel Snap in the sense of like, the only thing better than like using that card and just like, you know, cleaning up to their amazement or frustration, um, is doing it with like a really rare, awesome, interesting variant. Yeah. And do you think that like, like I feel like when I play the game with a different variant or whatnot, I don't really notice that.
[00:34:21] Much within the game, but it's also like not as much screen room and stuff from user experience. Like could there be something done or should there be something done or is what they're at the right approach.
[00:34:33] Neil Edwards: I think there's something to be said for that. Like I do think that just given the constraints of you've got a vertical orientation game, you've got a three-lane card game, [00:34:43] which is technically what, 2, 4, 6 cards wide, um, you're only gonna get so much screen real estate.
[00:34:49] Mm-hmm. So again, not a visual like preferr person. Um, I think there are potential ways to amplify that show off factor. Right. Um, it's not totally the same, but I was playing bra stars recently and they kind of revamped their intro. Um, and it's a lot more kind of dynamic and like the player icons used to be a lot smaller and now they're kind of like really big and blasted across the screen.
[00:35:16] And so something as simple as like, Well, part of the, and this is part of the trick of it though too, right, because you don't want to reveal someone's cards before the match. So it's like, there's this, there's this tough thing where like you, I was just like, oh, maybe show me your best card before the match.
[00:35:29] I'm like, instantly a terrible idea. Um, but I wonder if in the post-match or something there would be a bigger, bolder way to show that off. I also think there's, um, [00:35:43] I think more could be done with card backs too. Like I think card backs are something that could really, like having some rare card backs, um, cuz they're a little more simple and iconic and, you know, you kind of, I mean, you see the card face too.
[00:36:00] But yeah, there's something to be said for. I think that and that, and that is something you can show off, right? That is something you can, you do see their little card back in the, in the deck thing and, and before. So something like that may work. Um, cuz I also know there's people that hunt for sets, you know, like they work their ass off and they're like, they've got this matching variant set and being able to showcase that in a more compelling way.
[00:36:24] Um, yeah, that was a long-winded way of saying yeah, I think there's something there. I don't know exactly how to execute it, but I think the motivation that you're hunting after is really valuable. And I do think amplifying it is going to up players kind of a desire after those items. Absolutely. It's like, I mean that, [00:36:43] that goes with any cosmetic ever.
[00:36:44] The more people that I can show it to and the more big bold aum show off way, um, the, the better. And also I think, I'm sure they're gonna add this, but I think there's an important distinction to be made between types of cosmetic content. One is kind of rarity and is rarity tied to like, oh man, this shows that this person's played the game a ton.
[00:37:08] Cause they've, they've rolled the dice this many times and they have this super rare thing, or they're a payer. It's just kind of this like engagement, prestige versus mastery and having systems that have content that can reflect out my mastery beyond just rank. So things that are more tied to mastery vectors.
[00:37:27] So some mastery system that gets you, uh, a certain variant that just shows you've won a shitload of matches with this car. You did something, you know, that, that effuse is not just your personality but your skill in other ways as well. I think that's a cool way [00:37:43] that can, you can kind of target your different user segments.
[00:37:46] Tom Hammond: I think World of Warcraft does that really well. Like they've got some like mounts and stuff that, like, you've gotta drop like a hundred thousand gold on and you know, you see the players just sitting on that in the city and you're just like, how did you possibly get this much money? Yes. And like, just drop on like a mount or something.
[00:38:02] And then you also have those mounts that are like, you know, you had to win tier one, whatever, do this thing at a super high level. Like, wow, this player must be just like incredible at PVP or PV or like whatever. Absolutely. Um, and they, and then they also have the rarity ones too. Like, wow, they got super lucky or they ran, you know, whatever dungeon like a thousand times to get that like 0.5% drop rate or whatever.
[00:38:30] Um, so interesting stuff there. Okay. So just being cognizant of. Such good stuff. Let's maybe jump down and talk about monetization a little bit. Um, like [00:38:43] Marvel Snap has been praised for monetization and then like massively criticized for monetization on the other side. So I'm curious from a user experience perspective, what's your thoughts on their monetization design?
[00:38:56] Neil Edwards: Yeah, so I think, I think it's easy to criticize it in terms of, again, it's a very different game. Uh, and so a lot of games are gonna sell you power and that's, and they're just gonna sell you like something that's very cheap for them to sell you. You know, clash Rail, uh, is kind of a quintessential example.
[00:39:15] Um, so Marble Snap has to work outside of the box, um, right? They monetize a lot off of, um, or in theory, um, I would assume most of their monetization, um, comes from cosmetics. Some from new cards, but I'd be willing to bet that that kind of trickles off more. And it becomes a lot more about the cosmetics, um, which historically work really well for.
[00:39:39] Some games are really tough for other games. Um, [00:39:43] I think that, um, I think that their modernization is continuing to get better. Like one of the things, and it's not really relevant anymore, but one of the things that I know a lot of people complained about, um, early on was in the store experience, you would buy something and then it would reset your scroll view.
[00:40:01] And so it made this, and so this is, and I'm not, I'm not shitting on them, like we've all game making games is hard, but this is just kind of a quintessential example of like what I would just call a bug that can actually really grind on users and make purchasing like genuinely kind of frustrating. And so they fixed that in a recent build.
[00:40:17] Um, but I think one of the, one of the things that's curious, and I I don't claim to be a monetization expert, um, is one of the things that's curious about. Some of their bundles, um, and things like that. The, the value isn't, I think, as clear as it could be. Um, and I know,
[00:40:36] Tom Hammond: uh, what do you, what do you mean by that?
[00:40:38] Like, do you have an example of like, something that would clearly do it versus maybe like what wouldn't? [00:40:43] Yeah, yeah. So,
[00:40:44] Neil Edwards: so I got served a daily bundle the other day. It was 4 99, um, 625 credits, and then 65 boosters, right? And that was it, that was all the things said. So immediately my first reaction as a player is like, is this a good deal?
[00:40:57] Like, how good of a deal is it? Like, you know, like what I'm, I'm kind of on the fence, like, should I buy this? There's not, there's kind of none of the kind of typical tropes there of like, Hey, X percent more X percent bonus, X percent free. Um, I'm sure there's, there's maybe plenty of people that would say maybe those aren't effective, but without a solution, maybe like that or something similar that achieves it.
[00:41:19] My user journey becomes, okay, what's the value here? I scrolled down to the credit store, okay, the closest thing to 625 credits is 500 credits. That's 400 gold. So then I'm like, well, I don't know what the value of that is. So then I go down, there's 300 gold for 3 99 or 4 99. So then in my head I'm like, okay, well I would pay, I would pay $5 to get, you know, less gold than [00:41:43] this thing cost me to get, you know, uh, less credit.
[00:41:47] So I can start to put together in my head, oh, this is a value, but I'm having to do all this kind of napkin math, at least for the purchase purchaser type I am. If you're just like a button masher, like, yeah, buy this bundle, like there's nothing to worry about. Right? But if you're looking to kind of. I always think about, like, when I think about purchasing, I think about like confidence a lot.
[00:42:05] Like what's the level of confidence, like of this value proposition that just makes it like, absolutely, I'm gonna hit this button. It's stupid not to hit this button. This is such a great value. Um, so
[00:42:15] Tom Hammond: here, here's a question. So like, I, I recognize the, like, discount modifiers can be helpful in two, but like Yeah.
[00:42:22] You know, would it better clarify, um, the message or like why you would buy this if I see those 65 boosters, but at the top it says, you know, take whatever card to infinity and it happens to be the, you know, number of boosters you need to like finally level up to like, you know, split the card or whatever.
[00:42:40] Like, like tying it to a, a [00:42:43] goal that the player is actually maybe working towards or whatnot. Yeah. So
[00:42:45] Neil Edwards: you, you, you beat me to that, um, because I saw, um, I don't remember his name, but one of, one of your other folks at user wise, um, had that post the other day that, that's very much on this topic of like, Don't necessarily tell them the thing you're selling, tell them the thing that they're looking for.
[00:43:02] Right? And so I think what you're saying is ultimately what people are buying is not credits. They're buying progress. Right? You're selling them max this card out. Right. So I do think, I do think some type of tagline as an experiment could totally work cuz that is what you're selling. That's what speaks to me.
[00:43:19] And if you can be explicit about it, if it was actually the exact number that it took to max a card, I would be like that. I mean, that right there, it creates a story in my head as a user. This is what I can do with this. This is why I care about this. Because otherwise I have to also do math and say, okay, well how many levels does 625 credits give me?
[00:43:41] Does it give me [00:43:43] affinity? Does it give me ultra, does it gimme, whatever? So clarifying that journey and creating a story that's more in line, um, with just a few words to the user's actual motivation, um, I think is, I think is really powerful. Okay.
[00:43:59] Tom Hammond: Let's talk a little bit about, um, items and how they're kind of presented within the store.
[00:44:06] Neil Edwards: Yeah, so one of the, one of the things I think, um, is, and again, this is just tough because we have variants and then we have base cards, right? Mm-hmm. Concept, conceptually, they're kind of, they're not the same thing mechanically, but when you present them, it's kind of difficult to present them as a different thing.
[00:44:24] So that's one of the challenges I think users have, um, when they're looking at bundles sometimes, you know, um, I remember getting an early bundle and there's like four cards on there. And I have, and I have to sit and I have to kind of figure out which one is a card and which one is a variant because I have [00:44:43] different values on those things.
[00:44:44] A card to me is new possibility space, new potential strategy, new potential mastery. Ooh, a new potential deck. Is this. A badass card? Like a card to me is very different than a variant. And I place very different value on it and also different value based on what that variant is. Um, and so, but I have to kind of do this thing of like, okay, Wolverine, that's gonna be a variant.
[00:45:05] Cause I have Wolverine Wasp. I don't know if I have wasp. Is that a new card or is it a new variant? I'm not sure. I would have to go look. And I don't think there's, there's not at least an immediately clear path if there is one to kind of figure that out. Mm-hmm. Um, and I think Battle Pass kind of, you know, has some similar challenges.
[00:45:25] So I think making those value props clear. Um, I think what's a card? What's a variant? Um, I think. You know, whether you could associate a symbol or an icon with a variant or group those things differently to just make it a little more clear. [00:45:43] Because again, you could, you could argue it's just like, well get stuff they want, you know?
[00:45:47] But I think again, it's about when you can crisp up that message and hit the player with the motivation, like when you say new card, I'm like, ooh, like I said, new possibilities. That's a different motivation. And, and if that can be more crisp, it's easier to remove friction to get me to that, that, that point of hitting that button, um, to kind of purchase, you know, that, that thing with a bit more confidence and a bit more quickly.
[00:46:11] Tom Hammond: That's great. Okay. Um, so I, I think you've kind of hit on this a little bit, but like, what are some of the systemic constraints that they have within the realm of monetization because of some of the design choices that they've
[00:46:24] Neil Edwards: made? Yeah, so I mean, the biggest one I we covered is, is. You can't solve vertical power progression in a game that's discreet.
[00:46:31] Um, and, and I don't think that's a knock, I would never suggest changing it. It's just a limitation where their content immediately becomes more expensive. Um, because they can't just give you plus five x, you know, [00:46:43] plus five y um mm-hmm. They have to give you something visual. Right. Um, and I think that ends up really mattering in your live, live op strategy is, um, I know this has doomed some games in the past.
[00:46:54] I know that they've got some other things coming, like emotes and emojis and stuff like that. But you've gotta be able to find a way to find low cost content, um, or lower cost content than just your primo items. Um, I know we've worked with developers in the past where like they really have struggled.
[00:47:11] Cause like the only thing they really have to give away is this kind of primo, expensive content. I think Snap will find other avenues. Um, I think one of the systemic constraints, and I think they've done a pretty good job of working within it, is like how many different ways. Can you make a card look different in terms of like the upgrade paths?
[00:47:31] Right. And I think they've done a really good job of that. I think the split thing was like, I mean, I think they're kind of genius for that shit. Um, finding a way to really tap that content to like, you know, yeah, the 10th [00:47:43] degree and really making a single card a pretty deep progression. Um, I think one of the natural constraints as well is, and this comes back to store, is, and this is just, I don't know, this is kind of, maybe this is just kind of gasha in general, but because it's so cosmetic focus and because it's a deck based game, I assume could be wrong.
[00:48:09] There may be a big, there be may be a big collector focus segment. Uh, I'm not that player type. I'm like, if I'm not gonna play at this card, it has no value to me. Like, I don't care. Like, I just, I literally, I assign no value to a card that I'm not, that I don't see myself playing. Yeah. Um, and so part of the, you get this kind of piece of a pie of a piece of a pie.
[00:48:30] Of a piece of pie. And what I mean by that is you come into the store and for me as a player or players like me, I see those six cards. And the first, the first kind of slice of pie is like, is this a card I [00:48:43] care about? Right? So immediately I'm chucking a ton of content out, um, that you're gonna potentially serve me as like not interested.
[00:48:51] And then from that small segment, I probably, you know, I think most players, I don't know, maybe hardcore players play a shit ton of cards, but most players are probably gonna play like, 15 to 30 cards, like tops, maybe 40 cards tops. Like that's a lot of decks. So
[00:49:08] Tom Hammond: is there any way for them to know, like what cards are meaningful to you?
[00:49:12] Especially because it also sounds like the cards you don't have, it's, you know,
[00:49:17] Neil Edwards: well, par partially, when you're talking about variance, it's the cards I'm playing, right? So targeting me with cards I am playing. Um, cuz it's like, what am I playing? And then it's like, do I like what it looks like? Because I see a Jessica Jones, I'm like, Ooh, I like Jessica Jones, but I don't like the pixel variant, so I'm out.
[00:49:32] Right? Yeah. And so I think there's something to be, something to be done for sure. Potentially with, you know,
[00:49:39] Tom Hammond: variance. But you said the, the cards that aren't variants are actually more [00:49:43] valuable to you. Right. But like Yeah, they,
[00:49:45] Neil Edwards: so it's interesting, they, they are, they are in the early game. And then I feel like there's this interesting motivational shift where you're like, oh yeah, more cards.
[00:49:55] More cards, more cards. It's really exciting. And then you do start to settle. Mm-hmm. Um, To some degree, because at least for me as a player type, some player types are like, they'll just eat that stuff up endlessly. One for a collection, motivation two, because they're the experimenters, they're the explorers.
[00:50:13] They're like, I'm gonna find like every kind of weird combination. Me, I'm a little bit more as a player, find my deck, oh, find some, and I wanna make new decks. I wanna find new variations. But I start to chase specific cards that I see other players playing that make cool combos that I want to play as and things like that.
[00:50:32] Um, so that, that luster and that like, hell yeah. New cards. Um, when it's a new mystery card. I will say though, a new mystery [00:50:43] card. That has a ton of value because it could be anything. So like if you show me a new card outright and I read it and it's, uh, it's like a discard style card. I don't really like those decks.
[00:50:53] I don't think I'm smart enough to play them. Uh, and, and, and so I, I'm not, I'm like, eh, but if it's a mystery card, I'm like, this could be anything. This could be something really cool that works into my strategy. So that was a little bit more of what I was speaking to when I say mm-hmm. In new cards. Like, it represents this question mark that could be new strategy, new decks, all that stuff.
[00:51:13] Tom Hammond: Mm-hmm. That's interesting. Okay. Well, keeping an eye on time here. Let's talk about engagement. Like what do you think about their design choices for some of their engagement stuff?
[00:51:26] Neil Edwards: I mean, I, I, I don't know that it could be much better. Um, I'm, I mean, it's, I mean, it's the core gameplay. I mean, the core gameplay is, is wickedly engaging.
[00:51:36] It's, um, It's that TikTok thing, right? It's like I can pick it up, I can like second screen it. I mean, [00:51:43] I find myself playing this game, like while I'm watching tv I feel like I'm turning into like a Gen Z person. It's like, this is like one of the only things that does that in my life. Well,
[00:51:52] Tom Hammond: maybe let me rephrase the question a little bit.
[00:51:54] Yeah. So they've made some amazing choices here. What are some like key points of those choices that other developers could maybe take and emulate in their games, which is what they probably want to do, right? Yeah.
[00:52:06] Neil Edwards: Um,
[00:52:14] some, I mean, some of this I touched on a little bit, but
[00:52:20] I think, I think designing for emotional hooks and like what I, and I'll be a little bit more specific about that. Like if we're talking about like tips for developers and things like that, one of the things I think about is like when you're concepting your game, Thinking about, I mean, writing down what are the moments that our players are gonna go tell their friends about?
[00:52:41] Because in an [00:52:43] ultra-competitive like space, that shit matters. Um, so I think about trying to capture those early on and like, I, I believe that the team at second dinner purposefully chased that with, uh, the doubling cube from backgammon, which is what the snack snap mechanic is, right? Mm-hmm. It's like this ability to like jack the stakes up, right?
[00:53:03] And I, and I'm sure they knew that that's the, that's the feeling. They're chasing, they're chasing this moment of like, boom, the stakes just got higher. Right. Um, so thinking not just, not just kind of designing your way by accident, but like kind of thinking about do we have shareable moments, right? Are we designing those into our core mechanics?
[00:53:21] Um, and specifically, like you said, thinking about. You know, you're fatui early on, right? And making design choices, like, you know, the simultaneous play that allow you to kind of stack that. Um, things like that. Um, I mean, some of this is probably gonna [00:53:43] sound a little like generic game dev advice e um, but you, I think, I think a lot of people develop their game and it's that curse of knowledge, right?
[00:53:58] Like you think about the mid-game, you think about the late game, you're kind of the developer, you're kind of in the meat of it. Um mm-hmm. I think you have to, you have to think about designing what you're on rank OnRamp. And I don't mean tutorial, I don't mean the text you're gonna put on the screen. I mean, what is your OnRamp experience going to be like, um, in making design choices.
[00:54:23] That broaden that funnel, right? And kind of mapping that user journey early on, right? Like I'll, I'll kind of use a different example. Maybe it'll be kind of very, some like raw stars does this. Geniusly Raw Stars teaches you the game where you just can tap to shoot and it just auto aims. Um, and if [00:54:43] that was the way that game worked, that game never would've lasted cuz the Mastery Ceiling would've been low and it just, it wouldn't have had that long-term retention.
[00:54:50] Um, that's the way they teach you, but it elegantly makes the switch where, you know, then you just start naturally playing where you're actually, you know, touching your thumb and aiming and releasing and then it just, uh, just cascades in this huge depth, right? And so that was an extremely intentional design choice that wasn't like a Bolton of like, you know, what's, what the texts we're gonna put on the screen at the beginning of the game.
[00:55:12] It was pretty built into the core of how the controls worked fundamentally. Yeah. That made for this really smooth on-ramp and I think. The 12 deck, you know, the 12, uh, the 12 card, um, deck size, the number of turns. And again, I'm not just repeating like the smart mechanics, it's more from the angle of constantly reflecting on your game as a product and what that user journey is going to be [00:55:43] and making sure that you're not just designing this like meaty awesome experience once you get into it.
[00:55:50] But how does the core shuttle you into it, right? Mm-hmm. How does that a smooth road? Um, and so a lot of the mechanics and choices we've already discussed, I think are, they come from product design principles of thinking about that on-ramp. You know, bro, I think the design of this game. Plus obviously the Marvel ip, uh, makes the top of the funnel just fricking ginormous.
[00:56:15] Um, but a lot of that was of the design choices they made. Um, and I think, yeah, the big thing for them will be new modes, new features, social, that kind of stuff. That's the kind of stuff that I think the game is itching for. Um, and the players are itching for to kind of take, you know, what's already really great from an engagement, retention, monetization level and really kind of, I think, take it to the moon.
[00:56:42] [00:56:43] Um, cause I think this game like is already kind of, you know, the hottest thing on the streets, but I think it has like an insane amount of upside, um, that hasn't even really been discovered yet. That's great.
[00:56:56] Tom Hammond: Well, Neil, I feel like we can keep talking about this for a long time, but we're pretty much out of time here, so, um, I always like to ask cuz it is the Mastering Retention Podcast, you know, what's one tip or trick or lesson you've learned over the years to increase, you know, retention?
[00:57:11] Like, how do you keep players coming back daily or weekly or ideally for years? Right.
[00:57:17] Neil Edwards: Yeah. So this may be an unsatisfying answer, but I do, I do believe it is one of the most valuable ones I've come across my career is I think it's important to not think about retention as. This sort of metric that is a live ops thing.
[00:57:42] This sort of [00:57:43] separate thing, like I think people have mostly come around to this, but especially in my early days of like designing in the freedom play space, there was a lot of like, hey now we're gonna put in some retention mechanics right now. We're gonna work on our retention. Um, and I always tell people, your best retention mechanic you will ever have is your core gameplay.
[00:58:05] Absolutely. And that may sound like that may, again, that may seem unsatisfying cause it may seem obvious, but I don't know that I see enough focus on it. I think a lot of times when people come up short and are looking to juice retention, um, I would say look at your core. Um, but to do that is scary and you gotta be able to retention, look at your retention early enough, um, because it's tough to change your core in soft launch or things like that.
[00:58:33] Mm-hmm. Um, So I, I'll say that, and I guess maybe I'll, we'll probably go over time here a little bit, but I, I'll probably, I'll try to say one thing that's maybe a little bit, maybe [00:58:43] more unique to people, um, from my UX perspective, is if you haven't already codified the motivations you're trying to satisfy and the experiences that satisfy those, and I mean, at a feature agnostic level.
[00:59:00] Um, so we use a certain framework, um, that, that we've developed other people, you know, uh, other, there's other frameworks out there publicly available. Use whatever you have handy. Uh, reach out to someone, uh, that you know, that may have access to something like this or maybe an expert in it. Get some type of shared language to use, codify what your core motivations are.
[00:59:22] And then kind of take a, take a map of your feature set, take a core loop diagram or maybe a systems diagram and sticker it up with the different, you know, categorical experiences. And the motivations that serve them and look where you are serving those things versus not serving those things. And ask yourself [00:59:43] hard questions like, is our core actually delivering the level of thoughtful challenge that we want?
[00:59:49] Is this feature actually delivering self-expression or are we just kind of giving people a bunch of stuff and not giving them a place to show it off? Like I would say, look at your game through a pretty self-critical lens. Apply a framework, sticker it up, and, and usually, more often than not, if you're honest with yourself, you can start to find places where it's maybe broken.
[01:00:16] And you can start to use those kind of experiences to either do, you can not even do some light user, like even kind of ad hoc user testing of like, you know, how much mastery do you feel like you're experiencing? You know, I see a lot of games that actually pursue mastery satisfaction, but the early game, whether it's through AI design, whether it's through content design, it doesn't actually deliver that mastery experience.
[01:00:37] And so people churn out before they get to the real game. Just one anecdote. Um, but I [01:00:43] would say look at what your motivations you're trying to deliver and find a way to connect with your players or analyze it internally and say, are we delivering those motivations? Because the, the one last thing I'll say, and I know I'm drowning on about this, um, but I think about, um, like I said, players, they play, they stay and they pay when their emotional motivations are being satisfied.
[01:01:07] And I think about experiences as like faucets, right? They're faucets throughout your games that are dripping, you know, uh, social connection. They're dripping story, they're dripping fantasy. And you really have like two vectors you control. As a dev, you control the frequency of those faucets. So how often are you getting that hit of, of thoughtful challenge or mastery?
[01:01:27] How often are you getting this hit? Um, a sense of fantasy, and then you control like the intensity or the amount, right? And so I, I use that metaphor with people and, and, and, and folks find it helpful of like, because players usually bail out of your [01:01:43] game. For like one of two conceptual reasons. The frequency is wrong for me, so it's either too much or it's not enough, or the dosage is wrong for me.
[01:01:53] It's too strong or it's too weak. Um, and that is a lens that isn't like, Hey, here's a simple bullet retention tip. But it is kind of a tool set and a framework to think about, Hey, maybe our retention isn't where it needs to be. Let's analyze our game through this lens and find where our faucets in terms of experiences are off.
[01:02:14] And usually you, you can find them, uh, and then it points you a lot closer to some solutions in what the problem could be more specifically than some of the stuff you see on
[01:02:25] Tom Hammond: the surface. That's amazing. I love that. Well, thank you so much, Neil. Um, if people do, you know, want to get in contact with you or learn, you know, more about UX is fine or whatnot, like what, what's the best way to do that?
[01:02:37] Neil Edwards: Yeah, they can hit me specifically firstname.lastname@example.org. Uh, email me. Um, same [01:02:43] with Jason, Dave. Um, you can hit us, uh, on LinkedIn. Um, so it's easy to find us there. So hit us up on LinkedIn, email, uh, one of us. Um, it's pretty easy to get ahold of us.
[01:02:53] Tom Hammond: Cool. All right, well thanks so much, man.
[01:02:55] Neil Edwards: Awesome. Thanks Tom.
[01:02:56] Appreciate you.